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Semiconductor training plan doesn’t sound right

Yesterday, the Michigan Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) announced a $3.6M investment in semiconductor education and training in Southeast Michigan. Participating schools include the University of Michigan, Wayne State University, Oakland University, and Washtenaw Community College.

Wayne State University, the University of Michigan, and Oakland University all intend to use their funding to support hands-on workforce training programs. According to Ali Abolmaali, dean of the College of Engineering at WSU, the money will fund certificate programs that fill in the gap between the school’s current curriculum and the current state of the semiconductor industry.

That actually sounds a lot like the mission of a community college, but what do I know? Universities are not well-known for their ability to deliver hands-on training at the undergraduate level. And wouldn’t it make more sense to incorporate the current state of the semiconductor industry into their current related curriculum, rather than developing a certificate program – unless they’re trying to provide catch-up education for working professionals?

Meanwhile, WCC will use its portion of the funds to help middle schoolers and high schoolers “imagine themselves working in the semiconductor industry.”

This is curious because earlier this year, WCC announced a new semiconductor technician training program, also funded by the MEDC. But instead of routing students into that program, WCC will apparently be routing young learners to other schools where they can do more than imagine themselves working in the semiconductor industry.

Personally, I would prefer that WCC use some of the enormous resources that Washtenaw County taxpayers generously provide each year to build a clean room and build out the semiconductor technician program into a two-year degree program. By doing that, WCC would be building semiconductor workforce capacity for Washtenaw County and Southeast Michigan.

Build semiconductor capacity here using local resources

Children in Ypsilanti would not have to “imagine themselves working in the semiconductor industry” because they could just take classes at WCC and go to work in the semiconductor industry. As could children (or adults) in Ann Arbor, Saline, Manchester, Chelsea, Whitmore Lake, Milan or any other place within a reasonable commute.

This is an area in which WCC could better leverage the funding it already receives from the taxpayers of Washtenaw County to work with other resources here to develop real workforce capacity and develop pathways for students to train for work, or begin their studies with the intention of transferring to either UM, WSU or Oakland University.

This doesn’t take imagination. It just requires the community college to do what we’ve been providing funding for over the last 57 years.

Photo Credit: albyantoniazzi